Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Problem Skin Q & As—Monthly Breakout

I am 32 years old, and a few years ago blemishes and acne started to bother me, especially during my monthly cycle.

The blemishes I have are mostly red and swollen spots that do not have a white head or open pore. I have tried many acne treatments, but the results have not been good. The red and swollen spots just stay there and do not go away—even with days of treatment.

If I leave them untreated, these red spots will shrink a bit and turn dark red but remain there. Then dead skin starts to build up and cover the spots like a scar. The blemishes are bothering me a lot and new ones are popping up before the old ones go away. It’s like a nonstop cycle. I am interested in knowing what would help me.

Skin care isn’t just topical (product driven), it is initially and primarily internal—reflecting how your body is handling food, hormones, stress, and environment.
  • Do you eat sugar, and if so, how much? 
  • Do you have a balanced diet filled with healthy foods? 
  • Do you drink much water? 
  • Sodas? 
All of these will affect the state of your skin. Products can be quite effective on problem skin. But what you must truly understand is unless the root cause is found and fixed, the skin care problems can and probably will continue.

The first thing I want to know about her skin is why did it change a few years ago? Did something change in her world or her body that caused her skin to suddenly become a problem? For example, did she have a baby? Did she move, change her diet, or start taking medication? There are endless possibilities as to what might have changed (been added or taken away) in her life.

It is not unusual for blemishes to present themselves or worsen during a woman’s monthly cycle. Taking evening primrose oil would be something to consider to see if it helps keep the symptoms of PMS to a minimum. This supplement will probably not keep all breakout from happening, but hopefully it will help to lessen skin problems as well as ease the other symptoms of PMS at the same time.

Making the distinction that her blemishes are red and swollen but without a head is important. Without a white or yellow pus-filled head, these types of blemishes are not extractable. If, in an attempt to get rid of them, you try to squeeze or otherwise self-extract, you will pay for your actions. Since there is no opening for the infected debris to exit the pore, when pressure is applied (through picking or squeezing), the infected mass has to go somewhere, so it breaks through surrounding follicle walls underneath the surface, which unfortunately spreads the infection. This means the blemish will look bigger and take longer to go away. In the case of blemishes like this client’s, without a clear and defined head, using clay and/or essential oils is the best and only recommended course of treatment.

I will assume she was using the traditional treatments available over the counter, which include benzoyl peroxide products and perhaps products with salicylic acid and possibly even alcohol (the bad kind). If so, this is probably why she has found little or no relief. Drying the cysts just isn’t going to get rid of them. Drying out this already irritated, infected skin can cause the blemishes to become even more red and sensitive than if you didn’t treat them at all. When it comes to clearing up breakout, benzoyl peroxide products usually come up short.

That the spots just stay there and do not go away may be helped by increasing your water intake. Water flushes toxins out of the body, and since blemishes are a sign of toxic overload, drinking more water is always a good course of action. In terms of the spots taking so long to go away, the depth of the cysts will be exemplified by the length of time it takes for them to clear. Simply put, the deeper the damage, the longer the healing time. This is not unusual, it is just the frustrating part of having problem skin.

The mention of a nonstop cycle of blemishes is the second clue that something is amiss. The first clue is the actual breakout. Something inside your body is out of balance, and your skin’s reaction is the proof. This says to me that something is constantly or consistently being introduced into her daily life that is affecting her skin; it might be through food, drink, stress, or perhaps even products.

Knowing the details of her diet including water intake and of course how much sugar she has in her diet will help me know how to guide her into better lifestyle habits. Then, after finding out what products she uses and making any adjustments there, I would explain how to treat the blemishes themselves—topically. These suggestions include geranium or lavender oil for the spots, regularly exfoliating dead cells, and using a clay mask several times a week. I would suggest also using a regular daily program with pH balanced products meant for problem skin.

I usually break out one week before and one week after my period, mostly on my chin along with some blackheads there and on my nose. I use a topical acne medication (Benzamycin®*), which I would love to eliminate completely. I cannot use products designed specifically for acne. They are too drying and irritating and actually cause major breakouts. I tried Proactiv—what a horror show my face was!
*Benzamycin is a gel that combines benzoyl peroxide with erythromycin, an antibiotic.

I think these comments represent a lot of people’s experiences. She gets some breakout and has a slight blackhead problem, but her skin is not in a constant problem state. She’s used prescription and over the counter products and has even tried products seen on TV infomercials. From what she said, she hasn’t found anything that is really helping.

Taking evening primrose oil may help to even out her pre- and post-menstrual breakouts. If the medication is doing more harm than good, or if it is simply ineffective, using other spot treatments might be the answer. For the blemishes themselves, I recommend geranium oil with or without dotting with clay mask. I would also caution her to be very conscious of her sugar consumption leading up to and following her period. Sugar is just going to create more problems with her skin. Generally, sugar cravings increase near a woman’s period. It’s a cruel joke of nature, really. We reach for the very thing that will cause problems with our skin.

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